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St Brides Castle

Pembrokeshire, Wales

Puffin Watch on Skomer Island Nature Reserve

Posted by Luci Ackers on Jul 14, 2015
A colony in the summer months
A colony in the summer months
  • A colony in the summer months
  • Puffins stay at sea during the winter
  • Skomer coastline


Puffins! Instantly recognisable for their slightly absurd appearance, and loved by many.

Atlantic puffins, or common puffins, are a species of seabird characterised by their bold colours, upright stance and relatively small wings, designed for swimming underwater. With a black back and hood, white cheeks and tummy, the puffin's bright orange legs and bright red striped bill are very striking.

Many people travel far to see these charismatic creatures. Spending the majority of their time at sea, July is a great time to catch them as they are right at peak breeding season and have made their way to land, swarming high coastal cliffs for the summer. Puffins often breed in colonies and during July the parent birds are very active, flying to and from the sea bringing food back to the nests for their young.

Skomer Island Nature Reserve is famed for its puffin population and has become one of the best places to see them.The reserve sits off the coast of Pembrokeshire, accessible from the southern headland of St. Brides Bay (see a map here).

Skomer is a haven for an array of sea birds; home to gulls, guillemots, manx shearwaters and razor bills. It is surrounded by some of the richest waters in the British Isles tempting a vast variety of aquatic wildlife and providing rich pickings for hungry puffins.

Roughly 6,000 puffin pairs live on Skomer Island Nature Reserve. Adults can return to their nesting sites as early as April and they begin building their nests in underground burrows close to the cliff tops where they can benefit from easy access.

Once hatched, the young will stay in the burrows for around six weeks and all the birds start to leave the island again in August. Puffins spend a solitary winter at sea and the youngsters are likely to remain there for two years. After that they'll begin to spend their summers with the colony like the older birds, though they themselves do not generally start to breed themselves until the age of five.

A good place to see them is at The Wick, a deep cut sea cliff to the south of Skomer Island. It is carved with ledges ideal for nesting sea birds and makes a great place to sit and watch the birds go about their business.

It's simple enough to get to Skomer: catch the boat the 'Dale Princess' across the water from Martin's Haven and along the way you are likely to spot all sorts of birds and creatures. The trips go six days a week and you can check here for times and prices of those.

Take a look at the Skomer Island website for more information.

Find out how you can stay in properties at the fantastic St. Brides Castle and explore the stunning coastline for yourself.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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